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The Skinny Post: Vikings to Renew Heated Rivalry with Packers

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There's no love lost in this one.

The Vikings will finish off a stretch of three straight NFC North games by hosting Green Bay at noon (CT) Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Minnesota is 3-2 following a 20-17 win against Chicago on Monday Night Football. Harrison Smith had a late interception, and Kai Forbath kicked the game-winning field goal with 12 seconds left.

The Vikings and Packers have split the season series each of the past two seasons.

The Packers are 4-1 following a come-from-behind win over Dallas this past weekend.

Here are three areas to watch in Sunday's contest, plus some noteworthy stats on both teams:

 

GB WRs | By@pcraigers 

We addressed the problems that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers can cause for defenses earlier this week, but what about the players on the receiving end.

Six of Jordy Nelson's 19 receptions this season have been for touchdowns. He leads all receivers in the category and has 230 yards. Randall Cobb also has 23 catches for 218 yards and a score. Nelson and Cobb are no strangers to the Border Battle.

In 15 games against the Vikings, Nelson has 59 receptions, 863 yards and two touchdowns. Cobb has totaled 30 receptions, 300 yards and two scores in eight games against Minnesota.

They have more help this season from Davante Adams, a fourth-year player who has boosted his production in each of the past three seasons. Adams leads the Packers with 285 yards on 23 catches. He caught two of his four touchdowns this season on Sunday in Dallas. Adams has 16 catches, 181 yards and two touchdowns in six games against Minnesota.

The Vikings secondary has been strong so far this season, accounting for four interceptions and helping Minnesota limit opponents to 229.2 passing yards per game. Minnesota could face its biggest test Sunday.

Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes have started every game at the cornerback slots, and Terence Newman started at nickel against Detroit when Minnesota opened in its nickel defense. It was the 199th career start for Newman, who has shared time at the post with Mackensie Alexander.**

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An improved unit | By@EricLSmith

An improved offensive line has made quite the difference for the Vikings this season.

A season ago, Minnesota ranked last in the league in rushing yards per game as the offensive line battled injuries and inconsistent play.

Fast forward to 2017 and the Vikings currently rank 11th in the NFL with 118.2 rushing yards per game. The line has also given up nine sacks, and are on pace to give up roughly 10 less than last season. 

Health has been a key factor in the success of the unit as all Riley Reiff, Nick Easton, Pat Elflein, Joe Berger and Mike Remmers have started all five games so far this season.

Easton left Monday night's game with a calf injury and was replaced by Jeremiah Sirles.

The offensive line could play a significant role in helping Minnesota sustain drives

Getting the run game rolling | By@LindseyMNSports

Sunday's game at U.S. Bank Stadium will mark the Vikings third straight division matchup and second without rookie running back Dalvin Cook, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Lions in Week 4. 

Minnesota still was able to get its ground game going at Chicago on Monday, mainly behind the explosiveness of Jerick McKinnon, who scored on a 58-yard run and came just five rushing yards shy of 100. McKinnon and Latavius Murray will continue to share the load of carries in Cook's absence, and the Vikings also have fullback C.J. Ham as an option.

A goal this week for the running back group is to keep the run game balanced. Murray told Twin Cities media members earlier this week that he wasn't necessarily disappointed but was "just not satisfied" with his personal contributions.

"I've got to continue to work and get better so I can do more," Murray said.

"All our yards combined, you want to have that success running the ball regardless of who's running it," Murray added. "That's only going to help us get down the field and in the red zone and score points."

Substantial Stats

— Minnesota's defense leads the NFL in third-down percentage. The Vikings have allowed 14 conversions on 55 attempts (25.5 percent).

— Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen ranks third in the NFL with 6.0 sacks. Griffen has a sack in five straight games, a streak that ties his career high from the 2014 season. 

— The Vikings are one of three teams (Kansas City, New Orleans) that hasn't thrown an interception so far this season.

— Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers leads the NFL with 13 touchdown passes and is sixth in the NFL with 1,367 passing yards. 

Quotable

"It's going to be live. We're going to rumble, and it's going to be a game. I can't wait for Sunday to get here, it's going to be fun. It's an opportunity each and every week for our team to prove ourselves." — Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen on Sunday's matchup against Green Bay

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